Freddie Roach Has Tough Words for Ronda's Boxing and Uriah Hall Has Bizarre Words for Her Critics

Two ways to handle the world of social media after a sport-changing event.
November 18, 2015, 6:05pm
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

America's mass pile-on of Ronda Rousey and her team doesn't seem to be slowing down as we get further away from her loss to Holly Holm on Saturday. First to dance on the former undefeated champion's grave were staunch enemies like Miesha Tate and Cris "Cyborg, then it was random fellow fighters and hordes of longtime-turned-very-former fans. Then it was gloating boxers sore that Ronda had appeared on the cover of Ring Magazine and megalomaniacal politicians sore that Ronda hadn't endorsed them for president and experimental pop singers sore that Ronda hadn't touched gloves before the fight and former professional wrestlers sore at ... what?—once being professional wrestlers, I guess. Piling on Ronda has become the country's newest favorite fleeting pastime, its latest fad: planking or "winning" for the third week of November 2015. So hang on Ronda, if American history has taught us anything it's that we will move on to a new collective psychosis soon enough.

But not before everyone who has a video camera shoved in his or her face has a say. Yesterday it was boxing guru Freddie Roach, who has trained numerous mixed martial artists in the sweet science, from former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre to former UFC light-heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Roach is that rare boxing partisan who has opened his heart fully to MMA, so (unlike the millions of slanderers, bandwagon-leapers, armchair strategists, schadenfreude connoisseurs, and Donald Trumps out there) he knows of which he speaks, and Ronda (who, hopefully, is recovering somewhere quiet, with her computer and her phone good and shut off) would be wise to heed his advice before her next fight, especially if that fight is a rematch with Holly Holm. Because in a video released yesterday, Roach told Fight Hub TV that the Holm fight proved that all Rousey has "is a ground game right now."

"She really, really needs to learn how to fight stand-up," Roach said "[Holm] came out as a lefty, a southpaw, and she had no idea or no strategy of how to deal with that. It was embarrassing a little bit. I mean, no one ever taught her anything about boxing, it looked like."

Those are tough words for Rousey, but if she takes Roach's advice and buckles down with her boxing, she could turn last Saturday's mess into what President Obama would call a "teachable moment." There is still a bright side to all this darkness should she choose to see it. But those words are much tougher, and the future looks much bleaker, for Rousey's coach, former kickboxing champion Edmond Tarverdyan, who might be the one person in the MMA world Rousey can think about right now to make herself feel better. Since the fight Tarverdyan has been blasted by everyone for not preparing Ronda better to fight a champion boxer, for failing to acknowledge things weren't going well during the break between the fight's ugly first round and the fatal second, and for glad-handling and yes-manning his prize pupil into a mauling. It was already a bad week for Edmond, and now the world's greatest living boxing coach is telling everyone that his prize student fought a championship fight like she'd never been taught anything about the sport Tarverdyan had supposedly spent the last five years teaching her about.

Ronda Rousey's air of invincibility may have just been stripped from her, and the resulting fallout—endorsement-wise, Hollywood-wise, money-wise—could be ugly, but she'll always have a place in MMA. She's too good and her legacy is too enormous and her value to the UFC is too great for her to simply vanish. But there's little doubt that Edmond Tarverdyan's head is now on the chopping block. Rousey's aura was protecting him as much as it was her. Her glory was there for him to bask in, her judo genius and innate athletic ability a curtain for him to hide behind. Now he's just a former kickboxer who couldn't teach a fighting savant how to box and a head coach who was thoroughly out-strategized by the best coaches in MMA. The sword of Damocles is doubtless hanging over the Glendale Fighting Club this week.

And by the way, I don't want to make it seem like no one's been coming to Ronda's defense. Many MMA fighters, fed up themselves by the fickle allegiances of MMA fans and the ruthless group-think of Twitter strategists, have shown their sympathy and support for the former undefeated champion since Saturday's event. And no one has been more supportive or sympathetic than UFC middleweight Uriah Hall, who has taken his own enormous share of shit from basement fighting experts during his short career. And so this morning, in a moment of true, ill-conceived solidarity with his fellow beleaguered fighter, Hall decided the best and noblest course of action would be to throw himself on a social media grenade in the hopes of distracting attention away from his friend. In an Instagram post sticking up for Rousey, Hall, four days removed from the attacks in Paris, said that some of the people currently piling on Ronda Rousey for her loss in a cage-fight are "no different from a terrorist." That kind of self-sacrifice is admirable and noble and beyond explanation, Uriah. Totally, completely, thoroughly beyond explanation.